In February 2023, an 83-second video surfaced online of a teen boy in Burkina Faso being murdered by men in military fatigues. One man is seen bashing the boy’s head with a rock in what seems to be a military compound, with six apparently dead bodies also in view. Very soon, an aghast family in the West African nation of Burkina Faso identified the boy in the video as their 16-year-old, his first name Adama, who had never come home from a routine chore: feeding the cows near his grandmother’s house.
This video has given civilians, especially young men, even more cause to fear Burkina Faso’s security forces, especially after an Associated Press analysis identified the location of the killing as the military base northwest of Adama’s home village of Ouahigouya. Having confirmed the location of the attack through satellite images, the AP also found Adama’s family and had his uncle confirm the boy’s identity, though his family name has not been published for fear of reprisals.
In the video, the man who struck Adama’s head with a rock wears the uniform of Burkina Faso’s security groundsmen, from the shirt down to the boots. The voice behind the camera is heard speaking in French: “This one was still alive. Good-for-nothing! You don’t have anything to do but kill people. We’ll kill you one after another.”
Burkina Faso denies any involvement by its forces. Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo, a government spokesman, said jihadists were known to disguise themselves as soldiers. Even so, a new military order was issued the day after the disturbing video surfaced. It directed troops to stop posting videos or images on social media that could have negative consequences for the military.
Burkina Faso has been fighting an Islamic insurgency since 2015, when violence spread from the neighboring country of Mali. Terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) have launched multiple attacks, killing many soldiers and civilians and displacing a large segment of the population. Young men, especially, have been victims of raids and violence from all sides, including the military.
A local human-rights activist, Dr. Daouda Diallo from Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities (CISC), says Fulani men are the most vulnerable to attack because their essentially nomadic culture prompts suspicion and accusations of spying.
As is sadly true of so much warfare and unrest in Africa, there is very little establishment press coverage of Burkina Faso in North America. The AP’s investigation into Adama’s slaying, however laudable, is unlikely to change this.
Source: “Troops Film Boys’ Killings in Burkina Faso,” Africanews, March 4, 2023.
Student Researcher: Rabiatu Ladan (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)